A Chinese man managed to cross the highly militarized Taiwan Strait in a rubber dinghy in his quest to seek ‘freedom and equality’, Taiwan police said.
The man, identified by his surname as Zhou, was detained on Saturday in Taiwan’s Taichung city after locals reported his suspicious behaviour.
“He said that he traveled from the Chinese province of Fujian, located on the east coast, in a rubber dinghy and wanted to move to Taiwan to seek freedom and equality”, the police informed.
Officials said they were still investigating Zhou’s sail over the 100-mile stretch of sea between China and Taiwan, which is guarded by thousands of Chinese and Taiwanese coast guard ships and naval vessels.
The Coast Guards told reporters that Zhou had traveled in a rubber raft measuring 8.8 feet by 5 feet that he bought on the Chinese e-commerce site Taobao and fitted it with an outboard motor. The authorities said Zhou brought with him 23 gallons of fuel and nothing else.
Zhou was found by local dock workers on Taichung port, who offered him their lunchboxes after he said he had sailed over from China. One of the workers informed their managers, who in turn notified the Taiwanese authorities about the intruder.
Zhou is currently held at a detention centre in Taichung and undergoing a mandatory 14-day quarantine. He could face three years of imprisonment, a fine as well as repatriation.
The incident has naturally raised concerns among the Taiwanese security analysts about the contentious waterway where Beijing has been aggressively increasing its presence. The concerns are also compounded by the facts that relations between China and Taiwan are at their lowest ebb after growing belligerence and irredentist claims made by the Chinese officials.
Beijing claims that the democratically governed Taiwan belongs to the People’s Republic of China, and has ratcheted up armed patrols and military sorties as a mark of intimidation. Taiwan, on the other hand, has steadfastly characterised itself as an independent nation and has rubbished sovereignty claims made by China.